10 Great Foreign Movies With Sub-par Hollywood Remakes

6. District 13 (2004) / Brick Mansions (2014)

District 13

What’s the movie about: Set in a dystopic future where an area of Paris is so full of violence that the French government have built a giant wall around the district, which then becomes rampant with gang warfare, drugs trade and weapon trafficking.

Police officer Damien Tomaso has to infiltrate district thirteen to reclaim a bomb that a gang leader, called Taha, has managed to steal from inside district thirteen. Officer Tomaso teams up with local Leito, who has been fighting the gangs for the last three years, in an attempt to rescue his sister from Taha’s clutches.

Differences between the original and remake: In the remake Leito’s girlfriend is taken instead of his sister. Also there is an added sub plot of the mayor killing Damien’s father. All in all the storyline is largely the same.

Why is the remake sub-par: The reason the remake failed in this case is because District 13 was hugely successful in Europe and North America. This meant that whilst other foreign film remakes could skate by on the fact that a lot of people hadn’t watched the original, District 13 had been watched by a hell of a lot of people.

The movie was so popular that a sequel was released a few years later. District 13’s massive success meant that Brick Mansions was doomed to fail. Everyone had already seen the movie or were at least familiar with the storyline, making Brick Mansions just a reheated serving of a superior film. The action sequences are far too similar to the original movie as well, removing even more incentive to want to watch the remake.

The decision to have David Belle reprise his role as Leito may have hindered the movie as well. Belle, largely considered to have begun the Parkour movement, is absolutely fantastic at scaling buildings, jumping over moving cars and flinging himself around, but he’s not really an actor. He did a pretty good job in District 13, but he can’t speak English, which he was forced to do in the remake and it just comes across as quite stilled and harmed his performance in comparison to the great acting he had pulled off in the original.


7. LOL (2008, Remake 2012)

LOL (LAUGHING OUT LOUD), from left: Jeremy Kapone, Jade-Rose Parker, 2008. ©Pathe Films

What’s the movie about: Teenager Lola breaks up with her boyfriend after finding out he is cheating on her. As revenge she flirts with her ex-boyfriend’s best friend, but as time passes she beings to actually fall for him. Amongst all of this, Lola struggles to have an open relationship with her mother, who is suffering from her own romantic problems.

Differences between the original and remake: The point at which Lola’s mother reads her diary happens later in the remake than the original. The mother’s new boyfriend, a police officer, is closer to her age than he is in the remake. There are a large amount of voice-over sections in the remake that heavily detract from what’s happening on screen. And finally, a class trip from France to England is changed, instead being America to Paris.

Why is the remake sub-par: The 2008 version of LOL has been widely lauded as an excellent representation of teen life and has often been compared to the same quality level as The Breakfast Club, or Dazed and Confused. Unfortunately, the remake takes a major step down in quality and has little to differentiate it from any other teen-centric rom-com.

Miley Cyrus and Demi Moore don’t capture the same familial magic as their French counterparts and their characters end up as fairly narcissistic and pretty unlikeable.

The remake has taken a nuanced portrayal of a teenager’s first real foray into falling in love and a complex relationship with her mother and completely over simplified everything. Bizarrely enough, both movies are written and directed by the same woman, Lisa Azuelos.

The only explanation for why the original is so superior must be because Azuelos legitimately believes that American teenagers behave the way they do in the remake. It is almost a little offensive how vapid and shallow she has written the American characters in comparison to the original French ones, who were allowed to grow and mature without sacrificing characterization.


8. Dark Water (2002, Remake 2005)

Dark Water

What’s the movie about: Yoshimi Matsubara is in the middle of a bitter divorce and a fierce custody battle over her daugther Ikuko. But as they settle into their new apartment they begin to realise that something is wrong inside the building, especially as both Yoshimi and Ikuko start seeing the ghost of a little girl.

Differences between the original and remake: The visuals in the original are way more scary than the drab boring look of the remake. There has been a significant rewrite of the script so that certain storylines take center stage where they didn’t in the original film.

Why is the remake sub-par: The Dark Water remake was a failure for similar reasons as The Grudge and The Ring. In attempting to Westernise the story, the writer and director have removed a lot of the creepy elements from the movie.

The original film is full of great cinematography and startlingly scary visuals, whereas the remake instead decides to focus solely on an incredibly tedious custody battle, to the point where the ghost storyline feels like a sub plot more than the driving force of the movie.

This was done in an effort to make the movie more understandable, which it is, it is also incredibly boring in comparison. A creative decision was also made to set the remake almost entirely in gloomy weather, resorting to tired old visual cliches. The original has the same vibe as Ringu, but the remake just feels like a cheap knock off version of The Shining.


9. My Sassy Girl (2001, Remake 2008)

My Sassy Girl

What’s the movie about: Gyeon-woo meets a really drunk girl on the train and is shamed into helping her after the other passengers mistakenly think she’s his girlfriend. Over the course of the movie the girl’s mood swings from joyously happy to pretty violent and she regularly berates and abuses Gyeon-woo. He becomes determined to help her with her pain and accepts everything she doles out in an attempt to better understand her.

Differences between the original and remake: The storylines are actually pretty identical, other than the remake removing a quirky sub plot where the girl meets Gyeon-woo’s future self.

Why is the remake sub-par: This type of movie lives and dies by the two actors playing the lead characters and unfortunately for the remake of My Sassy Girl, Jesse Bradford and Elisha Cuthbert just don’t make the cut.

Bradford does a fairly decent job at being dopey and smitten, but the original actor Tae-hyun Cha made it much more believable that this guy would stick around through all the bad treatment he was receiving, portraying his character as someone who cares for the girl deeply and truly understands her.

Cuthbert fairs even worse than Bradford. Ji-hyun Jun’s portrayal of the sassy girl balanced a very thin line between completely crazy and someone struggling with extreme grief. When all of the reasons behind her bad behaviour and frenetic moods are revealed it makes sense in relation to the choices Jun had made for her character.

Cuthbert’s attempt at the character feels more like she is playing Ji-hyun Jun playing the sassy girl. She isn’t fully inhabiting the character or putting her own stamp on the role, but rather visually regurgitating the same acting choices made in the original Korean version, which only really works for people who haven’t seen the original film.


10. The Secret In Their Eyes (2009, Remake 2015)

The secret in their eyes

What’s the movie about: A retired criminal investigator, Benjamin, is haunted by an unsolved case of his where a newly-wed woman was raped and murdered. Benjamin promises the woman’s husband, Ricardo, that he would find the murderer and they would never go free. He starts to write a book on the case in the hopes of gaining closure.

Differences between the original and remake: There are two big differences that really change the direction of the story. The first difference is that Ray (as he’s called in the remake) is colleagues with the mother of the murder victim. The second difference is the ending of the movie. In the original movie, Benjamin visits Ricardo years later and discovers that Ricardo found his wife’s killer and has been keeping him jailed in a small building on his property.

Upon finding this out Benjamin is reminded of his promise that the killer would never go free and chooses to simply leave the building without saying a word, having finally found closure. In the remake it is Jess, the mother of the murdered woman, that has imprisoned the murderer. Ray gives her a gun, goes outside to start digging a grave and a shot rings out, before Jess exits the building.

Why is the remake sub-par: The change in ending changes the entire feel of the movie. The whole point is that Benjamin/Ray is haunted by the fact that the killer escaped justice. So when the audience discovers that the killer has in fact been imprisoned for thirteen years and is being punished for his abhorrent crimes, it is both satisfying for the viewer and Benjamin.

Having Jess kill the murderer in the remake doesn’t mean that she or her daughter have received justice and it makes Jess morally no better than any other killer. One murder doesn’t bring closure or cancel out the pain of another murder.

The main theme under discussion in the original film is what can the police force do to get justice when their hands have been tied by the law. So having the man imprisoned by someone outside of the law and left in silence for the rest of his life as he is forced to think of the evil deeds he has committed is much more of a punishment than being released by death.

Author Bio: Naomi Shakespeare is a freelance writer with a BA in English. Yes that is her real name, no she is not related to William Shakespeare.